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EN BANC

NESTOR PEREZ , A.C. No. 6160


Complainant,
Present:

Panganiban, C.J.,
Puno,
Quisumbing,
Ynares-Santiago,
Sandoval-Gutierrez,
- versus - Carpio,
Austria-Martinez,
Corona,
Carpio-Morales,
Callejo, Sr.,
Azcuna,
Tinga,
Chico-Nazario, and
Garcia, JJ.
ATTY. DANILO DE LA TORRE,
Respondent. Promulgated:
March 30, 2006
x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

In a letter-complaint[1] dated July 30, 2003 addressed to then Chief Justice Hilario G.
Davide, Jr., complainant Nestor Perez charged respondent Atty. Danilo de la Torre with
misconduct or conduct unbecoming of a lawyer for representing conflicting interests.

Perez alleged that he is the barangay captain of Binanuaanan, Calabanga, Camarines


Sur; that in December 2001, several suspects for murder and kidnapping for ransom, among
them Sonny Boy Ilo and Diego Avila, were apprehended and jailed by the police authorities;
that respondent went to the municipal building of Calabanga where Ilo and Avila were being
detained and made representations that he could secure their freedom if they sign the prepared
extrajudicial confessions; that unknown to the two accused, respondent was representing the
heirs of the murder victim; that on the strength of the extrajudicial confessions, cases were
filed against them, including herein complainant who was implicated in the extrajudicial
confessions as the mastermind in the criminal activities for which they were being charged.
Respondent denied the accusations against him. He explained that while being detained
at the Calabanga Municipal Police Jail, Avilasought his assistance in drafting an extrajudicial
confession regarding his involvement in the crimes of kidnapping for ransom, murder and
robbery. He advised Avila to inform his parents about his decision to make an extrajudicial
confession, apprised him of his constitutional rights and of the possibility that he might be
utilized as a state-witness.

Respondent claimed that when Ilo sought his assistance in executing his extrajudicial
confession, he conferred with Ilo in the presence of his parents; and only after he was
convinced that Ilo was not under undue compulsion did he assist the accused in executing the
extrajudicial confession.

The complaint was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report and recommendation.[2] On August 16, 2005, the Investigating
Commissioner submitted his report with the following recommendation:

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully recommended that Atty. Danilo de la Torre


be suspended for one (1) year from the practice of the legal profession for
violation of Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED.

The Board of Governors of the IBP modified the recommendation by increasing the
period of suspension to two years.

In finding the respondent guilty of representing conflicting interests, the Investigating


Commissioner opined that:

In administrative proceedings, the complainant has the burden of


proving, by substantial evidence, the allegations in his complaint. The
complainant was able to prove by substantial evidence his charge against Atty.
de la Tor[r]e. The respondent admitted that his services as a lawyer were
retained by both Avila and Ilo. Perez was able to show that at the time that Atty.
de la Torre was representing the said two accused, he was also representing the
interest of the victims family. This was declared by the victims daughter, Vicky
de Chavez, who testified before Branch 63 of the Regional Trial Court of
Camarines Sur that her family retained the services of Atty. Danilo de la Torre to
prosecute the case against her fathers killers. She even admitted that she was
present when Atty. de la Torre met with and advised Avila and Ilo on one
occasion. This is proof that the respondent consciously offered his services
to Avila and Ilo despite the fact that he was already representing the family of
the two accuseds victim. It may not even be improbable that respondent
purposely offered to help the accused in order to further his other clients
interest. The respondent failed to deny these facts or offer competent evidence
to refute the said facts despite the ample opportunity given him.
Under Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer
shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all
concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. Respondent is therefore duty
bound to refrain from representing two parties having conflicting interests in a
controversy. By doing precisely the foregoing, and without any proof that he
secured the written consent of both parties after explaining to them the existing
conflict of interest, respondent should be sanctioned.

We agree with the findings of the IBP except for the recommended penalty.

There is conflict of interests when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two or


more opposing parties. The test is whether or not in behalf of one client, it is the lawyers duty
to fight for an issue or claim, but it is his duty to oppose it for the other client. In brief, if he
argues for one client, this argument will be opposed by him when he argues for the other
client. This rule covers not only cases in which confidential communications have been confided,
but also those in which no confidence has been bestowed or will be used.[3]

There is a representation of conflicting interests if the acceptance of the new retainer


will require the attorney to do anything which will injuriously affect his first client in any matter
in which he represents him and also whether he will be called upon in his new relation, to use
against his first client any knowledge acquired through their connection.[4]

The prohibition against representing conflicting interest is founded on principles of public


policy and good taste. In the course of a lawyer-client relationship, the lawyer learns all the
facts connected with the clients case, including the weak and strong points of the case.The
nature of that relationship is, therefore, one of trust and confidence of the highest degree. It
behooves lawyers not only to keep inviolate the clients confidence, but also to avoid the
appearance of impropriety and double-dealing for only then can litigants be encouraged to
entrust their secrets to their lawyers, which is of paramount importance in the administration of
justice.[5]

To negate any culpability, respondent explained that he did not offer his legal services
to accused Avila and Ilo but it was the two accused who sought his assistance in executing their
extrajudicial confessions. Nonetheless, he acceded to their request to act as counsel after
apprising them of their constitutional rights and after being convinced that the accused were
under no compulsion to give their confession.

The excuse proferred by the respondent does not exonerate him from the clear violation
of Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which prohibits a lawyer from
representing conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full
disclosure of the facts.

As found by the IBP, at the time respondent was representing Avila and Ilo, two of the
accused in the murder of the victim Resurreccion Barrios, he was representing the family of the
murder victim. Clearly, his representation of opposing clients in the murder case invites
suspicion of double-dealing and infidelity to his clients.

What is unsettling is that respondent assisted in the execution by the two accused of
their confessions whereby they admitted their participation in various serious criminal offenses
knowing fully well that he was retained previously by the heirs of one of the
victims.Respondent, who presumably knows the intricacies of the law, should have exercised
his better judgment before conceding to accuseds choice of counsel. It did not cross his mind to
inhibit himself from acting as their counsel and instead, he even assisted them in executing the
extrajudicial confession.

Considering that this is respondents first infraction, disbarment as sought by the


complaint is deemed to be too severe. Under the present circumstances, we find that a
suspension from the practice of law for three years is warranted.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Danilo de la Torre is found GUILTY of violation of Rule 15.03 of


the Code of Professional Responsibility for representing conflicting interests. He
is SUSPENDED for THREE YEARS from the practice of law, effective upon his receipt of this
Decision. He is WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more
severely.

Let copies of this Decision be entered in the record of respondent and served on the
IBP, as well as on the Court Administrator who shall circulate it to all courts for their information
and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

A.C. No. 5948 January 22, 2003


(Formerly A.M. No. CBD-354)

GAMALIEL ABAQUETA, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. BERNARDITO A. FLORIDO, respondent.

RESOLUTION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This is an administrative complaint 1 against Atty. Bernardito A. Florido filed with the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commission on Bar Discipline, praying that appropriate sanctions be
imposed on respondent for representing conflicting interests.
Complainant is a Filipino by birth who had acquired American citizenship. He resides at 15856
N. 15th Way, Phoenix, Arizona 85022, U.S.A. Respondent is a practicing lawyer based in Cebu
City.

On November 28, 1983, complainant engaged the professional services of respondent trough
his attorney-in-fact, Mrs. Charito Y. Baclig, to represent him in Special Proceedings No. 3971-R,
entitled, "In the Matter of the Intestate Estate of Deceased Bonifacia Abaqueta,2 Susana Uy
Trazo, petitioner" before the Regional Trial court of Cebu.3

Accordingly, respondent entered his appearance in Special Proceedings No. 3971-R as counsel
for herein complainant.4 Subsequently, he filed complainant's "Objections and Comments to
Inventory and Accounting," registering complainant's objection —

. . . to the inclusion of the properties under Items 1 to 5 contained in the inventory of


the administratrix dated November 9, 1983. These properties are the sole and exclusive
properties of the oppositor per the latest tax declarations already marked as Exhibits
"2", "3", "4", "5" and "6" in the Formal Offer of Exhibits by oppositor in writing dated
August 17, 1983 x x x .5

Several years later, Milagros Yap Abaqueta filed an action for sum of money against
complainant, docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-11453 and entitled, "Milagros Yap Abaqueta vs.
Gamaliel Abaqueta and Casiano Gerona."6Respondent signed the Complaint as counsel for
plaintiff Milagros Yap Abaqueta, averring, inter alia, that:

Plaintiff and defendant Gamaliel Abaqueta are the conjugal owners of those certain
parcels of land, more particularly as follows . . .

The "parcels of land" referred to as conjugal property of complainant and Milagros Yap-
Abaqueta are the very same parcels of land in Special Proceedings No. 3971-R which
respondent, as lawyer of complainant, alleged as the "sole and exclusive properties" of
complainant. In short, respondent lawyer made allegations in Civil Case No. CEB-11453 which
were contrary to and in direct conflict with his averments as counsel for complainant in Special
Proceedings No. 3971-R.

Complainant further averred that respondent admitted he was never authorized by the former
to appear as counsel for complainant's ex-wife in Civil Case No. CEB-11453; that respondent
failed to indicate in the Complaint the true and correct address of herein complainant, which
respondent knew as far back as August 2, 1990, when he wrote a letter to the complainant at
the said address.7 Consequently, complainant failed to receive summons and was declared in
default in Civil Case No. CEB-11453. While the order of default was eventually set aside,
complainant incurred expenses to travel to the Philippines, which were conservatively estimated
at $10,000.00. He argues that respondent's conduct constitute professional misconduct and
malpractice as well as trifling with court processes.

In his defense, respondent claims in his Answer8 that he always acted in good faith in his
professional relationship with complainant in spite of the fact that they have not personally met.
He based the matters he wrote in the Complaint on information and documents supplied by
Mrs. Charito Y. Baclig, complainant's sister-in-law and attorney-in-fact, indicating that he was
sole and exclusive owner of the properties. This was sometime in November 1983. No affidavit
of adjudication was ever furnished respondent by complainant and this was apparently
suppressed because it would show that the properties formed part of the estate.

Eight years later, in November 1991, long after Special Proceedings No. 3971-R was settled and
the attorney-client relationship between complainant and respondent was terminated, Mrs.
Milagros Abaqueta through Mrs. Baclig, engaged his services to file Civil Case No. CEB-11453.
Mrs. Baclig presented to him a deed of absolute sale dated July 7, 1975,9 showing that the
properties subject hereof were not complainant's exclusive property but his conjugal property
with his wife, the same having been acquired during the subsistence of their marriage. Thus, in
all good faith, respondent alleged in the complaint that said properties were conjugal assets of
the spouses.

Respondent further pointed out that his law firm handles on the average eighty new court cases
annually and personally interviews four or five clients, prospective clients and/or witnesses daily
except Saturdays and Sundays. It regularly closes to the public at 7:00 p.m., but work
continues sometimes until 8:30 p.m. This has been going on for the last twenty-five years out
of respondent's thirty-three years of private practice. The absence of personal contact with
complainant and the lapse of eight years resulted in the oversight of the respondent's memory
that complainant was a former client. Furthermore, the caption of the Special Proceeding was
not in the name of complainant but was entitled, "In the Matter of the Intestate Estate of
Bonifacia Payahay Abaqueta."

Respondent expressed regret over the oversight and averred that immediately after discovering
that the formerly represented complainant in Special Proceeding No. 3971-R, he filed a motion
to withdraw as counsel for plaintiff, which was granted by the trial court.10 He denied any
malice in his acts and alleged that it is not in his character to do malice or falsehood particularly
in the exercise of his profession.

In his Comments/Observations on Respondent's Answer,11 complainant averred that


respondent's conduct was geared towards insuring a court victory for Milagros Yap in Civil Case
No. CEB-11453, wherein he deliberately stated that complainant's address was 9203 Riverside
Lodge Drive, Houston, Texas 77083, U.S.A., when he knew fully well that complainant's true
and correct address was c/o V.A. Hospital, 7th Street & Italian School Road, Phoenix, Arizona,
85013, U.S.A. By falsely stating and concealing his true and correct address, respondent
eventually succeeded in obtaining a default judgment in favor of his client.

During the pendency of these proceedings before the IBP, it appeared that respondent's son
got married to the daughter of IBP National President Arthur D. Lim. Thus, Atty. Lim inhibited
himself from participating in the resolution of the case.12 Subsequently, a Resolution was issued
requiring the IBP to elevate the entire records of the case within thirty (30) days from notice.13

The main issue to be resolved in the case at bar is whether or not respondent violated Rule
15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The investigating Commissioner found that
respondent clearly violated the prohibition against representing conflicting interests and
recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for a period of three (3) months.

We find the recommendation well-taken.


Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility explicitly provides that —

RULE 15.03. — A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written
consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts.

There is a conflict of interest if there is an inconsistency in the interests of two or more


opposing parties. The test is whether or not in behalf of one client, it is the lawyer's duty to
fight for an issue or claim but it is his duty to oppose it for the other client.14 In short, if he
argues for one client, this argument will be opposed by him when he argues for the other
client.15

There is a representation of conflicting interests if the acceptance of the new retainer will
require the attorney to do anything which will injuriously affect his first client in any matter in
which he represents him and also whether he will be called upon in his new relation, to use
against his first client any knowledge acquired through their connection.16

As pointed out by the investigating commissioner, respondent does not deny that he
represented complainant in Special Proceedings No. 3971-R. He also does not deny that he is
the lawyer of Milagros Yap Abaqueta in Civil Case No. CEB-11453, filed against complainant and
involving the same properties which were litigated in Special Proceedings No. 3971-R.
Respondent also admitted that he did not secure the consent of complainant before he agreed
to act as Milagros Yap Abaqueta's lawyer in Civil Case No. CEB-11453.

The reasons proffered by respondent are hardly persuasive to excuse his clear representation of
conflicting interests in this case. First, the investigating commissioner observed that the name
"Gamaliel Abaqueta" is not a common name. Once heard, it will surely ring a bell in one's mind
if he came across the name again.

In this case, respondent actively prosecuted the cause of complainant in Special Proceedings
No. 3971-R, such that it would be impossible for respondent not to have recalled his name.

Second, assuming arguendo that respondent's memory was indeed faulty, still it is incredible
that he could not recall that complainant was his client, considering that Mrs. Charito Baclig,
who was complainant's attorney-in-fact and the go-between of complainant and respondent in
Special Proceedings No. 3971-R, was the same person who brought Milagros Yap Abaqueta to
him. Even a person of average intelligence would have made the connection between Mrs.
Baclig and complainant under such circumstances.

Lastly, the fact that the subject matter of Civil Case No. CEB-11453 and Special Proceedings No.
3971-R are the same properties could not have escaped the attention of respondent. With such
an abundance of circumstances to aid respondent's memory, it simply strains credulity for him
to have conveniently forgotten his past engagement as complainant's lawyer. What rather
appears, given the prevailing facts of this case, is that he chose to ignore them on the
assumption that the long period of time spanning his past and present engagement would
effectively blur the memories of the parties to such a discrepancy.

It is axiomatic that no lawyer is obliged to act either as adviser or advocate for every person
who may wish to become his client. He has the right to decline such employment,17 subject,
however, to Canon 14 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.18 Once he agrees to take up
the cause of the client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of
the trust and confidence reposed in him.19 He must serve the client with competence and
diligence20 and champion the latter's cause with wholehearted fidelity, care and devotion.21

A lawyer May not, without being guilty of professional misconduct, act as counsel for a person
whose interest conflicts with that of his former client22 The reason for the prohibition is found in
the relation of attorney and client which is one of trust and confidence of the highest
degree.23 Indeed, as we stated in Sibulo v. Cabrera,24 "The relation of attorney and client is
based on trust, so that double dealing, which could sometimes lead to treachery, should be
avoided."25

Credence cannot, however, be given to the charge that respondent fraudulently and maliciously
falsified the true and correct address of the complainant notwithstanding respondent's
knowledge thereof. Lawyers normally do not have knowledge of the personal circumstances of
a party in a case and usually rely on the information supplied by their clients. The fact that
respondent sent a letter to complainant at the latter's correct address26 sixteen months before
the filing of Civil Case No. CEB-11453 does not by itself prove malice on the part of respondent.
A new address was furnished by Milagros Yap Abaqueta days before the complaint was filed.
Respondent had no reason to doubt the correctness of the address of the complainant given to
him by Milagros Yap Abaqueta considering that she was complainant's wife.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Bernardito A. Florido is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for Three
(3) months. He is further ADMONISHED to exercise greater care and diligence in the
performance of his duties towards his clients and the court. He is warned that a repetition of
the same or similar offense will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[A.C. No. 4218. July 20, 2000]

ROMEO H. SIBULO, complainant, vs. ATTY. STANLEY R. CABRERA, respondent.

DECISION

PURISIMA, J.:

At bar is an administrative complaint against the respondent, Atty. Stanley Cabrera, for
unethical practice/conduct.

The facts that matter are as follows:

In a case, entitled "Brenda Sucaldito[1] versus Reynaldo Marcelo, et al.", docketed as


Civil Case No. 90-55209 before Branch 53 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila,
defendant Reynaldo Marcelo retained the services of the herein respondent as his
lawyer. Subsequently, however, the respondent also entered his appearance as counsel
for plaintiff Brenda Sucaldito in the same case, without withdrawing his appearance as
counsel for defendant Reynaldo Marcelo. In view of such development Atty. Reyes
Geromo, former counsel of Brenda Sucaldito, filed with the Manila Regional Trial Court a
motion to disqualify the respondent on the ground of unethical conduct.[2] Finding merit
in the said motion, the trial court ordered the disqualification of respondent in the
case.[3]

Complainant Romeo Sibulo, an intervenor in the aforementioned Civil Case No. 90-
55209, brought the present administrative complaint against respondent, praying for the
latters removal from or suspension in the practice of law, on the ground of unethical
practice/conduct.

In his Answer[4] to the Complaint, respondent denied the wrongdoing alluded to him;
theorizing that "xxx I merely accepted a case from a plaintiff and at the same time I was
the counsel as intervenor of one of the defendants xxx."

This case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation,
report and recommendation.[5]

Acting thereupon on April 7, 2000, the IBP came out with its Resolution No. XIV-000-
163, which reads:

"RESOLUTION NO. XIV-000-163

Adm. Case No. 4218


Romeo E. Sibulo vs. Atty. Stanly Cabrera

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, the


Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled
case, herein made part of this Resolution/Decision as annex A; and, finding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and
rules, said recommendation is with modification that Respondent
be CENSURED and FINED One Thousand Pesos (P1,000.00)." [6]

The IBP Report,[7] in part, found:

"The respondents answer is quite revealing. While he denies any unethical


conduct on his part, respondent seeks to justify what he did and of which he is
charged by tongue-in-cheek declaring that he did no wrong considering that I
merely accepted a case from a plaintiff and at the same time I was the counsel
as intervenor of one of the defendants.

Nothing further need be said. For all his disclaimers and the affidavits of two (2)
witnesses in his favor, it is beyond cavil that Atty. Cabrera has violated Canon 15
and the subsequent Rules of Code of Professional Responsibility. The
complainants motives are not of paramount interest. To our mind, Atty. Cabrera
has lain himself open to the specifications against him. Remarkably, he admits
the same by his lame explanation.
From all the foregoing, we recommend that Atty. Stanley R. Cabrera be
CENSURED by the Honorable Supreme Court and ordered to fine a pay (sic) in
such amount as the Honorable Court may see fit."

Respondent has all but admitted the wrongdoing complained of, when he stated in his
Answer that he "merely accepted a case from a plaintiff and at the same time I [he] was
the counsel as intervenor of one of the defendants." Such a revelation is a categorical
admission that he (respondent) represented two conflicting interests, which
representations or appearances are prohibited by Rule 15.03 of Canon 15 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, which provides:

"CANON 15 - A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS, AND LOYALTY IN


ALL HIS DEALINGS AND TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS CLIENT.

xxx.....xxx.....xxx

Rule 15.03 - A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written
consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts."

Respondent was bound to faithfully represent his client in all aspects of subject civil
case. When he agreed to represent the defendant and later on, also the plaintiff in the
same case, he could no longer serve either of his said clients faithfully, as his duty to the
plaintiff did necessarily conflict with his duty to the defendant. The relation of attorney
and client is based on trust, so that double dealing which could sometimes lead to
treachery, should be avoided.[8]

Considering the attendant facts and circumstances, the Court is of the sense that the
amount of fine recommended below is not commensurate with the wrong done by the
respondent.

WHEREFORE, respondent is found GUILTY of unethical conduct for representing two


conflicting interests and is hereby FINED in the amount of TEN THOUSAND (P10,000.00)
Pesos, with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with
more severely.

SO ORDERED.

Melo, (Chairman), Vitug, Panganiban, and Gonzaga-Reyes, JJ., concur.

SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 5305 March 17, 2003

MARCIANO P. BRION, JR., petitioner,


vs.
FRANCISCO F. BRILLANTES, JR., respondent.
QUISUMBING, J.:

In this petition for disbarment, complainant Marciano Brion, Jr., charges the respondent, Atty.
Francisco Brillantes, Jr., of having willfully violated a lawful order of this Court in A.M. No. MTJ-
92-706, entitled Lupo Almodiel Atienza v. Judge Francisco F. Brillantes, Jr.1 The decretal portion
of our resolution in Atienza reads:

WHEREFORE, respondent is DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of all leave and
retirement benefits and with prejudice to reappointment in any branch, instrumentality
or agency of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations.
This decision is immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.2

Respondent’s dismissal in the aforesaid case was ordered after he was found guilty of Gross
Immorality and Appearance of Impropriety during his incumbency as presiding judge of the
Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 20, Manila.

Petitioner now avers that respondent violated our decree of perpetual disqualification imposed
upon him from assuming any post in government service, including any posts in government-
owned and controlled corporations, when he accepted a legal consultancy post at the Local
Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), from 1998 to 2000. Said consultancy included an
appointment by LWUA as 6th member of the Board of Directors of the Urdaneta (Pangasinan)
Water District. Upon expiration of the legal consultancy agreement, this was subsequently
renewed as a Special Consultancy Agreement.

Petitioner contends that while both consultancy agreements contained a proviso to the effect
that nothing therein should be construed as establishing an employer-employee relationship
between LWUA and respondent, the inclusion of this proviso was only a ploy to circumvent our
order barring respondent from appointment to a government agency. Petitioner points out in
reality, respondent enjoys the same rights and privileges as a regular employee, to wit:3

1. Issuance of LWUA properties such as a cellular phone with accessories, as evidenced by the
covering Property Issue Slips with respondent signing as "Accountable Employee";4

2. Official travel to various places in the country as shown by Reports of Authorized Travel kept
by LWUA’s General Services Division5 and Report of Travel accomplished by respondent
himself;6

3. Designation as supervising officer over other LWUA employees as brought to light by written
instructions personally signed by respondent;7

4. Attendance in water district conventions and meetings held in various provinces;8

5. Membership in several sensitive LWUA committees such as the Prequalification, Bids, and
Awards Committee (PBAC), Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Committee, among others, with
receipt of corresponding honoraria as borne out by various Disbursement Vouchers;9
6. Sitting at meetings of the LWUA Board of Trustees as evidenced by the minutes of such
meetings;10 and

7. Receipt of Productivity Incentive Bonus in 1999.

Petitioner submits that all of the foregoing constitute deceitful conduct, gross misconduct, and
willful disobedience to a decree of this Court, and show that respondent is unfit to be a member
of the Bar.

In his comment,11 respondent admits the existence of the Legal Consultancy Contract as well as
the Special Consultancy Contract. However, he raises the affirmative defense that under Civil
Service Commission (CSC) Memorandum Circular No. 27, Series of 1993, services rendered
pursuant to a consultancy contract shall not be considered government services, and therefore,
are not covered by Civil Service Law, rules and regulations.

Further, says respondent, according to the same Memorandum Circular issued by the
Commission, consultancy contracts do not have to be submitted to the Commission for
approval. With respect to his designation as the 6th Member of the Board of Directors of the
Urdaneta Water District, respondent reasons out that the same is not a "reappointment", which
is prohibited by our ruling in Atienza, as said designation is not an organic appointment to a
LWUA plantilla position. Hence, according to respondent, the CSC need not pass approval upon
his temporary designation.

Respondent also argues that all the members of the Urdaneta Water District Board, especially
the 6th Member, who comes from the LWUA, assumed such functions merely by virtue of a
designation and only in addition to their regular duties. In any event, says respondent, his
designation as 6th Member was revoked in April 2000 and the Special Consultancy Contract was
pre-terminated on April 30, 2000. It has never been renewed since then. With respect to his
use of LWUA properties, respondent admits receiving the cellular phone unit but insists that he
merely borrowed it from one Solomon Badoy, a former LWUA Board of Trustees Member.

In our Resolution of February 19, 2001, we referred this case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. The IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline found that respondent willfully violated a lawful order of this Court and recommended
that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one (1) year and fined ten thousand
(P10,000) pesos.

There is no question that the LWUA is a government-owned and controlled corporation, created
by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 198.12 As such, our ruling in the Atienza case, A.M. No.
MTJ-92-706, which categorically prohibits respondent’s appointment to any position in any
government-owned and controlled corporation, clearly encompasses and extends to LWUA
positions.

In the instant case the respondent does not deny the petitioner’s allegations.13 Instead, he
offers the existence of Memorandum Circular No. 27, Series of 1993 (MC No. 27, s. 1993) to
exculpate himself from the charge against him. However, it does not escape our attention that
the very Memorandum Circular that respondent cites before this Court provides that the duties
enumerated in the consultancy contract are mainly advisory in nature.14
Without belaboring the definition of "advisory,"15 it appears obvious to us that the tasks and
duties that respondent performed pursuant to the consultancy contract cannot, by any stretch
of imagination, be deemed merely advisory in nature.

An adviser does not exercise supervisory powers over LWUA employees nor does he issue
written instructions to them. An adviser is not entitled to a seat in such vital LWUA committees
like PBAC and the BOT Committee. Also, respondent’s continuous receipt of honoraria for sitting
as a member of certain LWUA Committees, particularly the BOT Committee, belies his claim
that he is a mere consultant for the LWUA. The evidence on record clearly shows that the
LWUA Office Order implementing National Compensation Circular No. 75-9516 refers to
payments of honoraria to officials/employees in consideration of services rendered.

Most telling, in our view, is respondent’s acceptance of his 1998 Productivity Incentive Bonus
(PIB). The Board of Trustees Resolution No. 26, Series of 1999, of the LWUA,17 which governed
the release of the PIB, limited the entitlement to said bonus only to "officials" and "employees"
(permanent, temporary, casual, or contractual) of LWUA.

In sum, we find that for all intents and purposes, respondent performed duties and functions of
a non-advisory nature, which pertain to a contractual employee of LWUA. As stated by
petitioner in his reply,18 there is a difference between a consultant hired on a contractual basis
(which is governed by CSC M.C. No. 27, s. 1993) and a contractual employee (whose
appointment is governed, among others, by the CSC Omnibus Rules on Appointment and other
Personnel Actions). By performing duties and functions, which clearly pertain to a contractual
employee, albeit in the guise of an advisor or consultant, respondent has transgressed both
letter and spirit of this Court’s decree in Atienza.

The lawyer’s primary duty as enunciated in the Attorney’s Oath is to uphold the Constitution,
obey the laws of the land, and promote respect for law and legal processes.19 That duty in its
irreducible minimum entails obedience to the legal orders of the courts. Respondent’s
disobedience to this Court’s order prohibiting his reappointment to any branch, instrumentality,
or agency of government, including government owned and controlled corporations, cannot be
camouflaged by a legal consultancy or a special consultancy contract. By performing duties and
functions of a contractual employee of LWUA, by way of a consultancy, and receiving
compensation and perquisites as such, he displayed acts of open defiance of the Court’s
authority, and a deliberate rejection of his oath as an officer of the court. It is also destructive
of the harmonious relations that should prevail between Bench and Bar, a harmony necessary
for the proper administration of justice. Such defiance not only erodes respect for the Court but
also corrodes public confidence in the rule of law.

What aggravates respondent’s offense is the fact that respondent is no ordinary lawyer. Having
served in the judiciary for eight (8) years, he is very well aware of the standards of moral
fitness for membership in the legal profession. His propensity to try to "get away" with an
indiscretion becomes apparent and inexcusable when he entered into a legal "consultancy"
contract with the LWUA. Perhaps realizing its own mistake, LWUA terminated said contract with
respondent, but then proceeded to give him a "special consultancy." This travesty could not be
long hidden from public awareness, hence the instant complaint for disbarment filed by
petitioner. Given the factual circumstances found by Commission on Bar Discipline, we have no
hesitance in accepting the recommendation of the Board of Governors, Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, that respondent be fined and suspended from the practice of law. The Code of
Professional Responsibility, Rule 1.01, provides that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. For violating the Code as well as transgressing his oath
as an officer of the court, his suspension for one (1) year and a fine of ten thousand (P10,000)
pesos are in order.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Francisco Brillantes, Jr., is found liable for having willfully
violated a lawful order of this Court in our decision of March 29, 1995 rendered in A.M. No.
MTJ-92-706, entitled Lupo Almodiel Atienza vs. Judge Francisco F. Brillantes, Jr. He is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year and ordered to pay a FINE of Ten
Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar
conduct shall be dealt with more severely. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Bar
Confidant and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and spread on the personal records of
respondent as well as circulated to all courts in the Philippines. This decision is immediately
executory.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Austria-Martinez, and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.